This is an excellent question posed to us by a reader. We thought we could get the very best answers for her by posting her question and having our readers who have experienced this kind of situation provide some answers. Many thanks to her:
I’m wondering if you can provide insight / resources to help me plan how to tell my children (ages 4-7) that I plan to seek divorce from their Dad. Because they are young, there has been very little that I have shared with them about my experience of verbal / emotional / spiritual abuse, and since our separation, I have simply said that we cannot live with Daddy unless God changes his heart and brings him to repentance. Of course, they are not completely naive to the abuse, but I don’t think they are even aware of how it has affected them. Regardless, I realize that I cannot treat this decision with any type of a cavalier attitude with my kids. I know there’s no “easy” way to tell them, but I want to be as sensitive and supportive of them as possible.
Any help you can provide would be appreciated!
Thanks so much.
[July 16, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to July 16, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
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UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
70 thoughts on “How Do I Tell My Children We are Leaving Daddy?”
Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog [Internet Archive link].
I haven’t had to go through this yet so I can’t say for sure what would help here, but my kids did go through a program at our local woman’s shelter called VOICES. The kids went evening and the moms went the following morning. Both groups learned the same things and our folders were shared with one another so we could both see how the other is feeling about the situation and some of the things that have happened. We both learned that it is wrong to use hurting words or actions, that we are each responsible for what we do with our own hands and mouths and that only we can control our own bodies, that nobody deserves to be hurt, and how to have respect for ourselves and each other. This was really helpful in my case because my husband had been blaming me for his abuse and my kids were able to digest it coming from a third party instead of me. At the same time, they could see a little better some of the feelings, fears, & desires I was having and I could see theirs. At the end of the program the kids no longer thought of me as the enemy, although they were still angry over the situation.
I am trying right now to keep this conversation open with them because the situation has not yet been resolved with my husband. They do seem to be processing things and they also understand that “mom isn’t doing things to be mean to dad, and that it is even hard for mom to do, but it is a very loving thing to set a boundary to show dad that hurting others is wrong (It has been said on this blog before that divorce is a boundary), that only he can change himself, and that all people deserve to live in homes and families that are safe with no violence.”
I am interested in what people say who have been through divorce wit kids. This is a really good question.
I think we all want the “answer”, that is going to just take all the pain and grief away and we all live happily ever after. I don’t know if that ever happens. Telling your children, no matter what age they are, that mom and dad are not going to be living together anymore, is difficult. They will all have their own emotions and responses to it. I also believe that young children know much more than we give them credit for, at least mine did, and I did not know it. So, in saying all of that, perhaps the best way to explain it, is the way that you have. You are telling them the truth. I think just trying to give them normalcy and what good and healthy relationships look like between people, (how mommas are to love their children and children are to love their mommas; how we treat others in general) once the abuser is out, is the best we can do. I really have to think about my responses to them when I am overwhelmed with pain and emotion, so that I don’t communicate anything unhealthy to them, such as responding badly to them or out of anger, just because I am hurting.
I think our expectations are more important than our explanations. Children tend to act out depression, with aggression. I believe that the calmer we can be and the more level we can show ourselves in front of our children, the better they will be able to take it all in and it will lessen any fears they may have. Of course, there are days, when mommy falls apart and then it is just best to be honest and for me to say that I am hurting and that I did not want things to be this way either. I, as a Christian, believe it is very important to engage the Word in the process, so as to show the children, you are not just making things up as to how we should live, but give them proof of it. Thankfully, I was able to teach my children from the time they were very small, so they already had in them the sense of right and wrong, and were able to make those judgments at a very young age, when things were not right. My struggles have been the attacks from outside forces and how to walk my children through those, as well as teaching them what normal healthy, godly marriages should look like, while still dealing with issues of abuse.
I don’t know that I can give the “words” to say, but just that whatever you say, season it with as much stability and love as you can. I have made it clear to my children, that I do not seek nor do I wish for anything bad to happen to my husband, and that I pray his life will be blessed and that he will find wholeness and true happiness along the way. My children are very angry (not with me) and are not angry at the divorce, but at the abuse that went on for years and years. There are just things that we are going to have to walk through and I do not know that I will have any answers, let alone the right answers for them or for me. I encourage them to pray constantly and to seek God for healing and restoration in their lives and explain what being angry and bitter will do to them in the end. That is the best I can do and it is really, all I can do at this point. I am gentle and allow the children to talk openly to me about their feelings and I try to just listen and then give counsel. I ask them daily how they are and how their day went and if there is anything weighing on them. Sometimes, quiet and calm is just all they need. I also try to do fun things with them, like we used to do.
One area of caution I would give to you is this. Do not allow anyone to speak with your children (whether family/friends/people at Church, etc) about the break-up of your marriage, unless you know they are supportive of you and are not going to challenge your choices to your children or confuse them with their own and differing opinions about marriage and abuse and divorce. Don’t be afraid, to march your children in the opposite direction of anyone (even in mid conversation) you know or hear, telling your children anything different than what you are telling them. They are confused enough and don’t need anyone else confusing them more. I hope this helps some.
I just read through this and thought to myself, how many times I knew these were the right ways to be, but I was not able to, because I was so overwhelmed with the abuse I was dealing with and the abuse from my “c”hurch at that time. Healing is hard. Leaving is hard. Being happy, can be hard. All I can do, is pray for you, whoever you are, and I will. So I will end by saying facetiously, with good humor — “good luck with all that”!
In my case, my children were that age but they had already witnessed a few things. They knew that their dad wasn’t very nice. So I had ongoing conversations, and like Barb has said, explained that I wasn’t safe with Daddy and we can’t live with him unless he shows that he is a safe person. I was careful to make sure that they heard me saying, continuously, that none of it was their fault, it had nothing to do with them, they were blameless, and there’s nothing they could have done to change it. And I made sure to also put the full responsibility on God. I said I prayed very hard for Daddy to treat us right, but he has not made good decisions and therefore God is leading us to be free.
I figure God can handle it if I throw the burden on His shoulders – I know that me and my kids weren’t strong enough to totally understand or handle this on our own.
My kids (4 years later) still struggle with thinking that the divorce was “their fault” – some kids have a really hard time letting go of that idea.
The above is all very good advice. Their security will come from you and the truth. Believe me no matter what ONE good, kind, loving parent is going to see them through. So much better than kids(like myself) who grow up with the insecurity of not being able to trust the one parent that is loving towards them. YOU love them. YOU are doing what is right, you care and worry about their feelings, and because you care so much for them they will feel that and be comforted by your strength. All the bad effects for children of divorce we cannot change, but in the case of leaving an abuser, they most likely will feel more secure. My kids were young when I first tried to leave, although our situations may be different my kids were exactly the ages of yours and they were told the truth that we HAD to leave…the response was pretty much “Okay”…..”so where do we get to go?” They were happy as long as they were away from the stress of him. But unfortunately there is always fall out, pieces to put back in place when they are older, they have anger towards the abuse, of course wishing things could of been different, feelings of dissapointment, sadness, longing for a real Dad. All very sad stuff but the bottom line is you love them and that is what will stick.
memphis you are comforting me today since I’m struggling with my kids, dealing with visitation and all the trauma that comes with that. We can escape the abuse but the fact is, the kids are going to face it until they are 18 in a lot of cases. Your words are uplifting sister 🙂 ((hugs))
….just to add I feel that Anonymous is accurrate about the warning of the attacks from outsiders who foolishly approach somebody elses children with their own pre- concieved
ideas, alot of times those voices are influenced by the abuser in secret. I had that happen, and then again I am left to defend myself, and have had pastors and their wives take it upon themselves to interject their own perspectives and actually pulling my children aside with things like “Your daddy misses you!” “do you miss your daddy?” or the clincher “I bet you wish you could see your daddy?””……and yes they would do that even right in front of me, as if to undermine their stability, then point the finger at me!!
I can attest to some of the most hideous attacks towards me by people using my children as leverage to pressure us back with him.
Yes of course some mean well, but even well intentions can cause confusion and further damage, so yes as she stated above you have to keep your ears open at all times, and be very careful of the motives of people, and be aware of them crossing those boundaries with your children, especially in a situation where you are trying to leave an abusive marriage.
Anonymous and Memphis Rayne,
Great advice about watching what outsiders say to your children. My teenage son just recently told me that the pastor disclosed personal information about my case, including his negative opinions about me, to him several years ago. For years we have had serious trouble here because of this ‘inside information’ fueling further disrespect/disdain towards me. I think the pastor’s actions to be unethical, and I am hopeful to have this situation evaluated by a governing church body.
I’m jumping for joy that you are taking it to a governing body who may admonish and rebuke that pastor for his unethical actions. All strength to your arm, and to those in your circles who are standing with you on this one.
Just some advice to you… Go as high as you can, the first time. Go to the main governing body over the entire denomination and not just the local governing body.
So far, all the comments have come from survivors whose kids have been more or less happy for their parents to separate because they know they will feel safer without that abusive parent around. I’m wondering if any readers have an opposite story — where your kids did not want you to separate from the abuser, and vehemently opposed the separation? Can you please share with us your stories?
We don’t want survivors who have been through that situation to feel isolated or marginalised or like they don’t belong on this blog. We want to give space for all the various stories and experiences of protective parents.
My child was 1 when I divorced. He was raised by me and it wasn’t until he was well into his 20s, that he even had contact with his dad, but when he did, his dad filled his head with lies about me and now our relationship is broken. I provided all the legal documentation necessary to prove to my son that I was not lying about anything, but in his having to “find out for himself”, he pushed it all aside. So, it really does not matter, whether they are young or old, or if the abuser has visitation or not, it can all change in a moment. One day, I hope he will come back, but if not, then at least I know as I stand before God, that I did what was best for him, when he was only 1. My only regret, was that at the time he began contacting his dad, I was so afraid in my own “today” life circumstances, that I reacted to finding that out, in a way that was too emotional and defensive. I was afraid of losing my son. You never get over the fear of “losing” your child, whether by custody or lies. So just know, that if that ever happens to any of you out there, you need to be cautious about how you react to the situation.
Anonymous, this is my great fear- that when my son is older he will push me aside for his mother- that he won’t understand.
She has been somewhat in his life since the divorce, but now she lives a few states a way. I think at least he can see that I am not keeping her away from him.
All you can do, Jeff S., is not talk badly about her, even though what she did was bad. I don’t believe you can separate the sinner from the sin, but we can teach our children not to be bitter. If it does happen later on, all you can do, is comfort yourself, knowing that you did what was best and that you did not constantly slam your ex in front of your son, but taught him to forgive her with boundaries. I have heard that children need affirmation from each parent, their blessing, so to speak, and if they did not receive it when they were younger, they will look for it later. However, I believe that if we walk the “higher road” than our abusers have, we will teach our children far more than if we had walked the other road, and that in the end, our children will see the truth, as much as it may hurt them, and come back to us. There is nothing to say, that our children cannot have love for our abuser in a healthy way, with healthy and strong boundaries — we just need to teach them how to do that and still be safe. I am not certain I was able to teach my son that, in the situation I was in. If the abuser abused the children as well, then it is much more difficult, because we have the responsibility of protecting the children from their abuser. I did not talk about my son’s dad, good or bad. I also did not tell him the absolute truth about all of it, because I did not want my son to think his dad did not love him. As a matter of fact, I did tell my son off and on, that his dad loved him, but just did not know how to be a good father to him and that my son was too young and needed protection. I often wonder, if that may have been my mistake, (not talking more about things) but there isn’t anything I can do about it now, but wait for God to bring enough healing to my son, to approach him on the matter. There is a lot to my story Jeff S., that I cannot go into here.
Thank you for sharing so much.
In my case, I tell my son often that his mommy loves him (we pray this every night) and I do try to show excitement for him when she comes to visit. She does not appear to try and undermine me- so I think so far so good.
I am so sorry to hear that story about your son, Anon. 😦
Anon….I see that in my brothers, who were horribly beaten and abused by my Dad….although the circumstances may be different, I see now them as adults who have bonded with him so tightly? I find it bizzare? But they are “sweepers” even the years of therapy they never called it out, NEVER giving a NAME or putting the blame where blame is overdue? Unfortunately they are both abusers too =./
But here is the deal…..your son is young, and he has YOU….he KNOWS you love him, he KNOWS he loves you….he is NOT his Dad, and that temporary need he is trying to fill, well that too will pass and your son will return to the goodness he has in you. Well that is my story and I am sticking to it!!!!
Unless none of you have noticed, this subject is not just my trigger, but my gun shot wound. I was almost afraid to reply at all, because I know how fierce I can get about things in my head, and my “Edit” partner consists of, well?….my other self who is not all reliable when it comes to toning this all into perspective. Many hugs to all.
UH? ….and Anon please do not regret your reaction, you did nothing wrong..you are human, you love him so much your reaction is understandable….you will see in time that that reaction will not be something that pushed him away, because it came from a place of honesty and truth. We would all react in our hearts the same, and understandably so. I believe it may of felt to him at the time like a guilt trip, or a uncomfortable burden he has put upon you…..but when it matters most he will recognize the care, love, and sheer humanity in that response….he WILL see things for what they truly are……
Okay!!! Now, that is my whole story and I am STICKING to it!!!
Thanks for this Memphis. In response to your first reply, I will just say, that I think that when abuse is not labeled for what it is, and it is not dealt with in the children, that they can become abusers themselves. It’s sort of like, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” type of response — no pun intended. I think sometimes for the children, it is easier to just ignore it, but when they do, they may end up siding with the abuser, because it is the only way they can deal with it — that is — to dumb it down and pretend it did not happen and that what did happen, happens in ALL families. The truth never bears out and the cycle goes on through the next generations. Isn’t that what we are all here to do? Stop the abuse from going through our next generations? I have prayed my whole life, that God would stop the abuse, in my generation, so it would not get passed down to my children and my children’s children. I think that is happening. Only, who would have known it would have been this agonizingly painful, just to stop it. You don’t just raise your hand to abuse and say “STOP”. It is a long, painful and weary battle, to end the victimization abuse brings. The sad thing is, that even though God is gracious to end it in my generation, with me and my children; the truth remains that unless abusers actually and truly repent before God, there will be another victim, somewhere, and another cycle. I can only stop it, by the grace of God, in this home.
I don’t think I did this well so I have been watching the responses to see what others did. One day, after getting off the phone with their biological father (we had already left), my oldest asked me “Are you and Papa divorcing?!” And I blurted out “Yes!” in a fit of tears. Pretty poor way to handle it. But, we all hunkered down into tears and hugs and lamented over the sadness of our situation, at the time. They knew he was abusive. I did end up explaining to them, later that day, that a believer and a non-believer simply cannot have a marriage . . . I think I also told them that God did not intend for divorce but that we had no choice as we had to protect ourselves and each other. There has been much communication since then and they are secure in the decision. My fear is, like everyone else’s, that the children will grow up, want to know him and then he will fill their heads with lies. My husband now says that it won’t happen. They remember too much and there has been too much documentation.
I have been trying to inoculate my kids. I think I want the children to know what is coming so that, when it happens, they can say to themselves, “Oh, Mama said he/she would do this. She prepared me for this.” If they know that, someday, my former abusers will try to lie to them when they are older . . . maybe, just maybe they will be prepared. And be strong. That is my hope, anyway. That is all I can do.
Yes, that is all you can do, but God can do much more. Even if our children have to find out truth for themselves, and get lost in the midst of it, God will still bring them back out of it. That is my hope and belief. It all becomes that our lives are filled with prayer and trusting God to bring the best outcome, and He will. I think children are hurt by abuse in ways we just don’t understand as adults, and I think they do feel very torn, especially if we as victims do not get help and change the cycle. If we end up being bitter and/or hateful toward our abusers, then the children may have a hard time seeing where there is a difference between us. Just my thoughts.
Megan, you have done a fantastic job and your crying out “Yes”, showed your children how broken you were over all of it and that is what the children need to see. (Your children also have a truly godly example before them now of how a husband/father should be.) They need to see that we are not maliciously divorcing our abusers. They need to know the depth of thought and prayer and soul searching we have gone through to make that kind of decision. They can see the abuse for themselves! But they need to be taught that it is not the right way to chose in life, and you have done that. Well done, my friend!
True its a long weary agonizing process….and true that they may have a more difficult time seeing abuse if the victom is sufferring the effects, which can sometimes show in the form of anger, entirely diffierent than bitter, resentful hatred. I am no expert nontheless I think if we do not stuff the effects (the anger) because after all we are justified, and anger in itself is not bad THEN the kids would also see and understand the difference. They are inately compassionate, more understanding, more capable to think more critically than an abuser, so just my thoughts that kids as we know are sometimes so inately in tuned with what is right and what is wrong, and unfortunately its the grown ups that teach them to suppress, or deny what they are feeling. I understand what you are saying though, and it makes sense. I think we all get angry, and I as long as we recognize that especially as a survivor ANGER is okay, and the emotion has a positive purpose, and is perfectly healthy (not in context of an abusers mind) Kids will also see the difference when its not used to intimidate, manipulate or control them. I get though that you were refferring to fighting fire with fire and allowing ourselves to be consumed with bitterness.= )
xoxox good stuff!
Yes I was Memphis, because I have had a lot of anger. I just meant stepping back and not allowing the anger to be expressed in a rant or rage against anyone (abuser in mind here). That being said, none of us are perfect, and it was my anger one day, that I had a hard time hiding, that actually drove me to make some decisions and set some boundaries, because it wasn’t me and not who I wanted to be or become. So, I am not speaking of anger in general, or even losing your cool a time or two, but just being very careful not to unleash it all in front of the children..like back up the dump truck on them. It’s okay, in my opinion, to allow them to see that you are angry and hurt, confused and feel manipulated, etc., but just to also show them that when we feel that way, we can be in control of our emotions, stay sensible and level headed and work through our feelings; and the children will figure out that abusers have a really hard time being in control of themselves — probably, because they are so busy controlling everyone else! Ta-da!
Yes Anonymous! I agree – they need to see the depth of our soul searching. I’m continuously talking with my kids about the praying that I did – how I left it up to God and what God’s answers appeared to be. I told them about all the things that happened that I was sure were God’s hand in our flight/escape….etc…
another important thing that I’m trying to instill in their hearts is that they have RIGHTS. We know that the abuser thinks he’s got all the rights. But they have rights to their own feelings. They have the right to express it. They have the right to feel however they do. And I never show disapproval of them.
That created a safe environment where they knew they could tell me whatever they felt, cry over the divorce, cry over their dad, and work through it….without having to stuff their emotions (in order to avoid their dad’s wrath)
Everything is about creating that safe place for them. They will come back to the safe place – eventually. Because we all want safety deep in our souls – we all want love. and peace. We long for it. If they are provided those things (regardless of our own outbursts over the hurt and injustice of it!!) they will come home.
I have to believe that too.
I think it is harder for a Christian mom to give a reason. “I don’t love Daddy anymore” is not going to cut the mustard and will be torn to shreds if the child shares it with other Christians. Besides, that’s not the real reason, but often, wordly counselors or books will recommend that you keep it simple when telling the kids, just offering the reason that you have fallen out of love as some people do.
Telling them that you don’t feel safe isn’t going to satisfy them either since Jesus can keep anyone safe. Telling them that you can’t live with Daddy could have them retort that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Telling them about the abuse could possibly invite them to ask you to pray harder rather than leave the marriage.
In fact, it doesn’t seem so different from trying to give a reason to your church family. Fortunately, with your kids, you know that they have witnessed the abuse at closer quarters. Still, some are so inured by it that they probably wonder what the big deal is. Others may think that abuse should be tolerated, especially if they also witness it in the school, church or community at large.
I guess the bottom line, as with all dilemmas surrounding domestic abuse, is that there is no one “right” answer for everyone. You explore the options (like most survivors do), trust your gut instinct and pray that the Lord will guide the process and take care of the end result. No matter how hard we try to do our best, our efforts are being undermined, so it seems like we keep stumbling and making wrong decisions when many of the quagmires we find ourselves in are the result of someone’s evil planning.
I think that the problem is with the church is unwilling take a strong stand against evil. If the church would support the abuse victim, rather than say, “We don’t side with either of you. We are on the side of the marriage.”, it would be clear to the children that the church will not support abusers. Then the children would know why the marriage ended-the abuser was a unbeliever, evident by their actions, and the church would not tolerate it within the body.
With the confusion that the church radiates in handling abuse cases, no wonder the family and the church body as a whole does not know how to properly respond. I have thought of how the people in Iraq, during the war, often did not know what side to align their allegiance with. They were concerned with who would win, and what the consequences would be for them. I think that this is how children access the situation as the church incompentently intervenes.
What if the church would be salt and light for a change? What if they would stand for the truth instead of being ‘nice’? I think that God’s people would stop being persecuted, children and onlookers would see that God is holy and loves his people, and the church would be respected.
For the first time ever, this week I found a local Church that actually has an abuse statement on its website. At first I was pretty excited. The unfortunate thing, is that upon further investigation, they also have swung the pendulum too far the other way and are not aligning themselves with Scripture, as they should be. So, not a place I would go to, but I had the thought that it wouldn’t be so wrong, if we victims would ask our Churches to make an actual statement about how they will handle abusive marriages and situations within the Church, and incorporate it into their overall Church statement in general, not having to do with Church membership or anything, but just a general statement. That could go a long way, when it comes to others within the body, being free to step up and state that they are living in an abusive situation, children included. Maybe that’s dumb, but just a thought I had.
a great thought! Let’s hope we hear of churches doing this, and doing it the right way, not just throwing out all scriptural teaching or being driven by winds of secular thinking, but geting it right and well balanced from Scripture.
AMEN persistent widow!!!!!
Not too late: your comment brings up an important element to all this. When we tell someone about our decision to divorce — whether it be our kids, people from the church, or our extended family, we often have to educate them as well.
For instance, if they say “Not feeling safe is not a reason to divorce because Jesus can keep anyone safe,” we may want to educate them out of that false notion. I try to do it by asking them questions, like “Why did Paul escape from Damascus in a basket then? Why did Jesus leave Judah when he heard that the religious leaders were plotting to kill him in the middle year of his ministry? Why did he tell his followers to shake the dust off their feet and leave a place that would not receive the gospel? Why did Paul appeal to Caesar?”
It’s exhausting, having to be the guinea pig that educates others when you are the one suffering from their ham-fistedness and sub-biblical thinking. And a lot of the time, the victim may not have the energy to do that, and the people she or he might want to educate won’t listen anyway. So it’s a balancing act all the time, deciding when and where to try to educate others, and when and where to simply walk away or tell the pecking birds “That’s your view, it’s not mine.” The victim is constantly having to choose how best to navigate and balance all the competing demands by judiciously harbouring her energies and maintaining her boundaries, safety, dignity and self respect.
Ya telling kids you have fallen out of love? Crazy standard advice, I mean because in most cases of abuse within the marriages, as you said its not the case. Most women struggling to leave are in fact VERY much in love, very attached emotionally to their marriages and all that they represent for them. If the Love we had for our spouses was not a factor, I suppose we all would be able to cut through the mirky fog bank in a much quicker way. As far as abuse goes, its way too complicated to explain to anybody that you do in fact love your spouse, the abuse however has made you realize that the ABUSER does NOT love your family back, so you make tough choices based on the sad reality that a person who infact abuses you, does not and cannot love you. (of course I realize regarding kids, they need to be reassurred no matter what they are loved and very lovable) I just got off track with the falling out of love portion of the show. = )
As the one who asked the question in the first place, I am so thankful for those of you who have commented. I am printing out all your replies and sifting through all of them because so many helpful things were said. So, thank you!!!
One thing I feel I must publicly give praise for: the church that I belong to has been SO helpful to me! Have they done everything perfectly? No. But have they learned along with me? Yes. And given the “bad taste” that so many seem to have about the churches to which they’ve belonged (and rightly so!), I feel I need to tell how thankful I am for my elders, deacons, and church body. Of course, there are members of the church who will never agree with my choices and our situation. But like Megan just spoke of in her post about counselors, I have learned that there is nothing wrong with ignoring those who just don’t understand. And slowly, I am learning the gracious, but firm, things to say to those who vocalize their disagreement. But overall, through all our trials, past and present, one of the things I praise God most for is the wonderful support and counsel I have received through the Body of Christ to which I belong. All glory to Him!
anon, it is so wonderful to hear of a church that is getting it more right than wrong. Please pass my praise on to your church leaders. Maybe they might even like to write a guest post for this blog, explaining how they went through the learning curve and what challenges they have faced and surmounted as they have dealt with your situation. I think a post like that would be very helpful to other pastors and elders who might be reading this blog.
My children are under the age of 10.
I wish I had recognized the abuse and left befor the baby got all in the “I love my daddy” stage of life. She is fully entrenched in it now.
My husband is verbally and emotionally abusive. He mostly attacks me, but the children get it sometimes too.
I have asked him to move out until I can see changes in his behavior. He said he won’t leave and that I am using my children to manipulate him and bring him to his knees because of my pride and ego. He claims I don’t know or care what divorce will do to them.
I am so torn. I love them so much and don’t think I can endure their sadness and confusion if I leave him. But if I stay, I know he will never stop and they will become targets as soon as they are old enough to start truly rebelling. But they will be targets anyway during visitation.
I sometimes wish he would hit me because bruises are easier to see than emotional trauma. No disrespect to any of you who have been physically abused. I have never been there so I don’t know. I’m just stating my feelings.
I have spoken to a lawyer and am gathering evidence, but every time I reach the edge and am ready to go for it I pull back because of my children.
here are some resources that may help you:
Deciding to stay or leave
Should I Stay or Should I Go?: A guide to knowing whether your relationship can —and should—be saved [Affiliate link] by Lundy Bancroft and Jac Patrissi.
and a few more resources:
Children of Domestic Abuse
I’m the one who originally asked this question and Jeff C was kind enough to put it out here on ACFJ so that others could help with answers. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost two years since I faced those questions.
My ex was also like your husband in that he refused to leave – it was ME who had to take the initiative – he was never going to leave, because after all, he had done nothing wrong! I was the over-dramatic one! So, the decision became more difficult because it required more planning. Thankfully, I had a good support network and help from my church with finances – otherwise, I’m not sure how I would have managed.
My youngest was also a Daddy’s girl (still is!), and she was only three when I left and took the kids with me. Given her young age, she doesn’t remember what life with Daddy was really like, unlike my older two who do have vivid memories. Because of their memories, the older two are also able to link his CURRENT actions with those they remember seeing when we lived together. This helps them put the puzzle pieces together and understand why I had to leave. My youngest doesn’t understand, I have to believe that she may never truly understand. BUT, I am still confident that what I did was for her best, despite her lack of understanding. Given her close relationship to her father, the chance that she would/will be hurt even more by him are much greater. I believe that I spared her some of that hurt and pain by removing her from the situation.
And yes, I completely sympathize with your feelings about “wishing” he would just hit you…I thought and said those exact things many, many times.
I will pray for discernment for you, and for the courage you need to make the hard decisions that you face. I will also pray that the Lord will surround you with a support network that will enable you to stop worrying about the physical details – there’s enough turmoil just working through the emotional details!
If it is any consolation to you, I look back over these years since posing my original question and see God’s wonderful hand of mercy. My kids are happy and well-adjusted, we’ve always been well-provided for, AND just a week and a half ago, I remarried! This time, the Lord has blessed me with a man who is KIND and SAFE, the exact opposite of what I had before. I’ll pray the same blessings for you!
congratulations on your new marriage, Sarah! 🙂
Thank you for the information, Barbara. I will look at all of it.
Thank you for your story. I will pray that mine turns out similarly. I am so afraid of damaging them because of not being strong enough to deal with this. At the same time I am afraid of damaging them by staying and letting them think this is ok.
I believe he will turn on them in the same way once they try to become independent.
Such a difficult decision. It doesn’t help that our Home School co-op is, I suspect, deeply into the Biblical Counseling movement I have been warned about on this blog. Several are “counselors”.
Please continue to pray for me. I feel I really need confirmation from The Lord on this or I will be stuck in indecision.
sounds like quite a lot of dust may have to be shed off your feet if you leave — not only the abuser’s dust but the dust from those (so-called) Biblical Counselors. But take heart, many of our readers here have amazing testimonies about how God has miraculously supported them after they shook the dust off their feet. One thing God seems to do quite often is to provide new friends for the survivor. But even if you don’t find new ‘friends in the flesh’ you have cyber friends here at ACFJ 🙂
Hi Dawn, I am also in your shoes. My husband is undiagnosed OCPD and is mostly emotionally and verbally abusive with me. His abusive nature stems a lot from the anxiety of his personality disorder. It is hard to think about leaving because 99.9% of all abuse is at me. I can only think of a couple of iffy incidences with him with the kids. So I dont know if they will understand. My eldest is very special needs too and a daddy’s girl. She is not cognitively able to understand. I dread even thinking about how she would deal with it. I just thought I’d commiserate. I am unlike the others in that the abuse has made me fall out of love with him. I was married once before to another abuser, no kids, and thought I was with a healthy guy. I guess from what I know now, guys with ocpd seem to be pretty with it until you move in with them or until you have kids, then something snaps. It truly stinks, and I just pray that if God wants me to stay, He is going to have to perform a miracle here on hubby as well as my heart. I just want out.
welcome to the blog 🙂
Jul…..how do you survive the day to day living in the household functions in a loveless marriage? This is my present struggle-my children. If it were just me, no question I would have left many years ago. My kids are in their teens and understand there are deep troubles, but don’t want to leave their home nor for me to leave because they don’t believe their dad can handle running the house and all responsibilities himself.
I am now in a separate bedroom per the counsel from my pastors. There is very little contact between my spouse and me, but it’s been 16 months now and no acknowledgement of his part in trouble. I seriously wonder how long this can go on. No one is really living life in the home, yet the pastors’ counsel is to remain in my own bedroom and that because there is no adultery ( that we know of) and no physical beatings, I have no right to separate or file for a divorce.
It’s insanity to keep going like this and I do wonder about the long term effects on my kids even though they prefer this to a separation.
I also am no longer in love. It seemed to happen as soon as I started researching Narsisism and saw our relationship spelled out for the world to see. That opened my eyes that it wasn’t me or my inability to communicate, or that he “just didn’t know” and if I gave him one more book, one more sermon, loved him more, etc. he could change. Then he destroyed some personal property that meant a lot to me and our children, even though it wasn’t valuable, in a fit of rage against me because I started tithing. At that point I stopped trying. I told him that I had tried for years and if our marriage was going to last it was his turn to try. It has been over a year and he hasn’t tried. I even took away sex until he started treating me right. Nothing. He recently emptied all of our joint bank accounts and re routed his pay to a secret personal account. This is when I stopped fighting the urge to leave. The only thing holding me back now is the children and my upbringing that divorce is not an option. I read these posts and I’m almost there, but there is a little voice telling me that I just believe it because that’s what I want to hear.
I am planning to listen to Pasrot Jeff’s sermons and continue to pray for release.
Dawn Rising, if you want a copy of my book to help you untangle the doctrine of divorce, email me and I’ll gift you one.
I would love a copy, thank you so much. I can’t figure out how to find your email address. Thank you again. For the first time in many years I am feeling hope.
my address is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can always find it at our About tab in the top of the blog. However, please be aware that my time is so limited I can’t really engage in much email conversation with readers. So just email me your safe shipping adress and I’ll get a copy of my book sent to you.
Thanks for the welcome! Dawn, I hear you about the ambivalence. I know that I have not tried putting boundaries up so much. The couple of times I really went for it, hubs escalated a little. He then discovered from one of his interrogations that I was not sure I wanted to stay, so he has been trying to keep his behaviors on a leash (also lets me know that on some level, he knows what he is doing.) However, control is like a drug, and he will need to try to assert it once again.
There is a part of me that feels I should try the boundaries first as for some people, this seems to train their spouse with ocpd to not pull that boundary crossing again. However it does seem to be like a game of Whack a Mole where you get one behavior taken care of and another appears. I guess I feel guilty for not trying to use those boundaries and try to shore up my own needs within the marriage. My kids are the glue that keep me here. In my case, the love was lost when he used emotional blackmail to keep me from going on a trip I felt I needed to go on. I value my freedom so much, and he knew how much I hated my ex controlling my comings and goings, yet he did it anyway out of his own anxiety. Now the majority of that love is gone.
Yes Jul. It’s the kids that are the glue. Like you, I always feel I should try more, that I haven’t tried absolutely everything yet. On the other hand, I realize I could have perfect boundaries and this would still be a suffocating, anxious, stressful marriage. But then I think “it’s not bad enough yet…” I go back and forth.
Don’t know yet how it will end, same as you. But I’ll say this: Mine will probably end when I’ve come to the point where I don’t care if I’m universally condemned and unsupported for leaving but just have to get out because I can’t live like this anymore.
It’s two years since you wrote this comment; what was it for you? I hope things are better and that you’ve come to some resolution.
Chilled – as you can see we have changed your screen name to a more anonymous one, taken from one of your posts – “Chilled.”
Hi Chilled, this page of our FAQs might be helpful for you. 🙂
For my children’s sake, it is better to leave?
I posted on ACFJ five years ago while still suffering in my [almost three decade] abusive “marriage” to my “wife.” Thank God it’s now [more than a year] since my divorce. You can’t believe how enormously liberating it is not to be under the daily abuse! In my case, though, even though I recognized I was in an abusive situation early on, I felt I had no choice but to stay, because I loved my two kids and didn’t want to leave them and expose them without any defense whatsoever to her attacks. My “spouse” of course knew this and took full advantage of the situation. Sad.
[Some time details airbrushed for the commenter’s safety and protection. Editors.]
Thank you for your comment, AbusedHusband. I’m glad to hear things are going well for you.
Would you like to share with us any tips you learned along the way?
I was in the fog for about 6 or 7 years into the “marriage,” trying to figure out exactly what the “thing” was that I was dealing with. Then I happened (praise God!) upon Patricia Evans’ “The Verbally Abusive Relationship”, which was an eye-opener. She was describing my wife to a tee! So I would recommend that book to give the target of abuse validation that there is a name to put with this constant attempt to diminish and destroy you, and to affirm that you’re not the crazy one. (And I deliberately say “target” instead of “victim.” I hate when people call the abused person the “victim.” I never was a victim, and I always resisted this unjust treatment.)
After recently discovering Patrick Doyle’s videos on emotional abuse, I see more clearly that the solution to emotional abuse is to put up a boundary. The problem in my case was that I wasn’t able to set up a boundary. If I tried to leave her and take the kids with me, the court likely would have awarded custody to her, the mother. I could never allow that. So she had me, and she knew it. She knew I wouldn’t leave her, because I was unwilling to expose my kids to her unrelenting abuse without me providing any kind of loving counterbalance or defense. (One of the worst moments was when my [child] was [young], and [the child] came to me and said, “Daddy, why is Mommy so mean? Please stop her, Daddy, please stop her!”)
If any readers have an idea of how to set up a boundary for abused dads who have kids to protect, I would welcome any suggestions. Personally, I couldn’t figure out how to do it.
The only “boundary” (if you can call it that) I had was to try to avoid her as much as possible. So I would recommend that. For many years, we slept in separate bedrooms (she in the top floor of the house, in the master bedroom, me sleeping in the basement). We also often took separate vacations. So essentially I was divorced my whole married life with her, even though we were legally married.
Since I couldn’t get away from her physically, I remember when arriving home in the evening from work, that I would keep repeating these three things to myself:
1) Pray for her.
2) Don’t engage.
3) Be joyful no matter what she does.
It helped somewhat, but it was no substitute for the real solution: Getting me and my kids as far away from her as possible.
As Patrick Doyle recommends, it’s good to find someone reliable and trustworthy you can vent to, and who can validate you. The only person I knew like that was a pastor who had been abused himself by his wife for 12 years. But he lived too far away. I never came across anyone where I lived who I felt would understand (REALLY UNDERSTAND) and would be a real friend.
[Some details airbrushed for the safety and protection of the child / children. Editors.]
Thank you, AbusedHusband. 🙂
Like you, the first book that I found which opened my eyes was The Verbally Abusive Relationship [Affiliate link] by Patricia Evans. I scribbled in the margin, underlined and highlighted so many things in that book!
In April 2016 I emailed Patrick Doyle at his church, giving him a heads up about ACFJ and telling him we had posted his Reconciliation video. I also gave him a heads up about our concerns about John Piper because I’d noticed that his church recommends Piper. I was disappointed that neither Patrick nor the church secretary replied to me.
Yes, Patricia Evans’ book is really helpful. I remember holding the book and confronting my “wife,” pointing at the book and telling her she was abusive. About that same time, when her parents were visiting and she was being really nasty, I confronted her in front of them, pointing at the book again. (I was so stressed, my back started going into spasms!) Boy, you’ve never seen such obfuscation, excuses, lying, and blame-shifting in her attempt to save face. (And that reminds me, when some counselors claim that abusers “don’t realize” what they’re doing, I beg to differ. Several times my “wife” was in the middle of some abusive tirade when someone came to the door and voila! — as if by magic — she suddenly “turned the abuse off” and became so very very “nice nice.” Abusers know exactly what they’re doing.) My “wife” is still in denial, even after the divorce. She told me that she thinks our “marriage” would have been better if only she had known my “Love Language.” (!!??)
Sorry that Patrick Doyle’s church never responded to you about Piper. After being in several legalistic churches, I now steer clear of them (hopefully). The safest place for me seems to be the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, although there are some churches in that denomination that are legalistic as well.
In your comment, you placed (!!??) after referencing “Love Language”.
Your “wife” may have been referencing a book that was / still is (?) on some best seller lists. The book is another variation on learning how to communicate with other individuals.
In the case of abusive relationships, the concepts written about could be used by abusers / abusers’ allies to continue abusing and / or manipulating the victim / target.
Hi, AbusedHusband, you said:
You are not the only one who has experienced that. Many years ago I heard an almost identical story from another person whose intimate partner was abusive.
Yes, Barbara, I was always amazed by my “wife’s” ability to turn the abuse on and off, and the situations she chose to do so. If a particular friend came over, the abuse would stop temporarily, but often she would choose to be abusive to me when we were both talking to a realtor or a car salesman, or even another friend (whom apparently she felt no need to impress). I remember being at a realtor’s office one time, and the realtor gave me a look that spoke volumes: “What in the world is wrong with her? What is she doing?” The mystery to me was knowing that she knew she was being abusive, but at the same time the apparent lack of insight she displayed in acknowledging the abuse.
I’ve emphasised two words in this sentence by AbusedHusband:
In my experience, the mystery evaporated when I realised that abusers are lying when they display lack of insight in acknowledging the abuse.
I can put that another way: Abusers pretend they have no insight into the fact that they treating you with disrespect. They pretend they don’t know they are abusive.
It was Dr George Simon Jr’s writings which gave me clear understanding. George Simon says that abusers (malignant narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths, etc.) know full well that they are hurting others. They know….and they don’t care.
When confronted about the way they mistreat you, they use a whole array of “responsibility resistance” tactics. One of their first tactics when confronted is to pretend they do not know they are abusing you.
Any reader who wants to learn more about Dr George Simon Jr’s work can click this link: George Simon Jnr
That’s really interesting, Barbara. I think you’ve hit on the truth — there is an “apparent” denial they’re being abusive, but it’s really a lie. And the really sad part is when you come to the realization that your abuser truly harbors malice and ill will towards you. You’re trying to relate on this mutual love-and-respect basis, and all the while they’re operating on a basis of hatred. My mother told me once how disgusted she was to see my “wife” abuse my daughter and then to see a little smirk come on my “wife’s” face when she saw that my daughter was hurt. Sick.
Hi, Abused Husband, you wrote —
Many ‘ordinary’ people can go from calm to angry very quickly given the right circumstances but only those with personality disorders (psychopaths, etc.) can go from anger to calm in an instant. It is a huge ‘tell-tale’.
These people are life-time actors. They adopt roles to suit their circumstances and needs. And they know what they are doing yet will never admit it. It can do your head in. For anyone who hasn’t dealt with someone with a narcissistic or psychopathic disorder, I will try and give a verbal demonstration.
Imagine you are a fan of a certain TV actor in an ongoing soap opera. This actor is not very well known but you appreciate their talent. One day a friend says to you that they know this actor and can arrange a meeting if you like. You say ‘yes, of course’.
So you turn up for coffee at the pre-arranged time and place and sit down with this actor and are looking forward to talking about their role and how they approach it. But you find the actor is in character and will not come out of it to talk to you as he / she is in everyday life. You find it amusing and entertaining at first. But after a while when the actor will not acknowledge what they are doing, it starts to get weird and a little annoying and you are starting to wonder if this meeting was a good idea.
Then, by chance, a friend drops in and comes over to your table. You are about to introduce the actor when they jump in and introduce him / herself as the character they play and have been playing to you. You don’t say anything to your friend. Your friend, not recognising the actor and not realising what is going on, is charmed and delighted with your ‘friend’ and their conversation.
After a little while, the actor excuses him / herself (while still in character) and leaves. Your friend tells you what a delightful person the actor was still unaware that the actor was not being themself. You try to explain but your friend does not ‘get it’ and as you persist, your friend starts to look at you strangely and asks if you are ok. The actor was a perfectly fine person to them!
Your head is well and truly ‘done in’ by now and you are starting to sound and feel crazy even to yourself while trying to make sense of it all to your friend and to yourself. That is what it is like dealing with personality disordered people and how you end up sounding crazy to others when you try to explain what is going on for you. And feeling crazy yourself by now.
These nasty people adopt roles and will not admit what they are doing even though they know that you know what they are doing. They persist because they know it is disorienting and distressing you. Later they may drop the role and you may think you are dealing with the ‘real’ person now. But you aren’t. It is just another role. There is no ‘real person’ in there. Every encounter is with another acting role.
There is no genuine feeling there. They are just mimicking what they have seen others do. They are actors and very good ones. They study people to copy them when they need to.
People, and I have not been an exception, keep dealing with these psychopaths, narcissists etc. thinking that they will get down to the real person. They keep trying to ‘connect’ with them but they are just getting conned again and again by another role, another act, because there is no real person under all the lies and manipulations.
There is no humanity there. No empathy, no compassion and no understanding or sympathy despite what they may say and despite how they may behave for the time being. They are consumed with meeting their needs now and nothing else.
Persisting in looking for, or appealing to, the ‘real person’ is a waste of time and will just do your head in. Expecting them to show sympathy towards you after they have abused you makes as much sense to them as you showing sympathy towards the tea cup you just dropped and broke.
Your feelings after you have broken your favourite tea cup are reserved for you and not the tea cup. It’s the same with these people. You’re a tea cup!
Thank you, James – what a wonderful illustration! 🙂
I’m pretty sure I will be pondering it for some time. And maybe one day I may use your illustration to explain the dynamics of abuse to someone who is on the learning curve….
Have you had an abusive wife? I can imagine that you may have, judging from your theory that “no one” is really there, just an actor / role. Perhaps this is connected to a multiple personality disorder? I’ve heard from people who have become Christians who have been born into Illuminati families that one of the techniques they use to create “alters” is to subject them to serious trauma when they’re young in order to split their personalities. I know that my “wife” (as well as her other siblings) was subjected to heavy emotional (and possibly some physical / sexual abuse) from her dad growing up. For instance, she told me she can’t recall her teenage years — they’re a blur. So a theory I have as to why a person becomes abusive is that they learn to become this way in order to deal with the trauma they’re experiencing. And another thing they internalize is that since their power was taken away while growing up with an abusive parent, they either decide they will mimic the way their parent acted, because their parent was “powerful”, or they determine that they will never allow themselves to be in a “vulnerable” position again (which they equate having a “mutual give-and-take” loving relationship might subject them to) and opt for the “Power Over” model of relating.
Hi, AbusedHusband, you wrote:
You might like to check out my other blog The Mystery of Iniquity. It addresses extreme abuse including the things Illuminati families do to their children.
James has already responded to your theory about why a person becomes abusive, and I endorse James’s response.
In his comment, James wrote about how the abused individual has a choice to reject the path of evil — a choice to resist and refuse to be turned into a psychopath by their torturers.
This choice may be bounded: limited by the double-binds in which the torturers place the child; but I think those individuals always have some kind of choice whether to fully give in the evil and become wholly evil themselves, or whether to refuse to become psychopaths.
Another thing that I believe is important when considering all this, is the intervention and power and sovereignty of God. God’s mercy is offered to all, but not all will accept it.
You might like to read this post I wrote about how the individual’s choice to suppress the truth exacerbates spiritual blindness. It is part 3 of my series on Blindness. After that I suggest you read part 5 of that series: Blindness as a result of being deceived by others.
Thanks for the links, Barbara. I’ll check them out!
I’m not a professional in this field. My insights come from personal experience, observation of others’ experience and research on my part. All of that experience has informed me that Multiple Personality Disorder is very different from other ‘personality disorders’ such as psychopathy and they should not be conflated together. If any reader takes only one point away from the following, let it be this.
I will answer your first question by saying I have had to deal with psychopaths and narcissists all my life.
Your second question concerns the similarities between Multiple Personality Disorder and other ‘personality disorders’ such as narcissism and psychopathy. There are others such as Anti-social Personality Disorder, Passive-aggressive Personality Disorder (now more likely termed Covert Narcissism) and Histrionic Personality Disorder. These all share a complete lack of empathy and conscience towards others and are non-treatable.
These ‘personality disorders’ have no ‘core personality’ because there is no humanity there. They are lacking in all the qualities that we associate with humanity. Humanity is what we look for and hope to find and appeal to, but it is simply not there. Many of these personality disordered people are born this way but they can also be ‘manufactured’ through intense childhood abuse. This is one of the reasons behind cults massively abusing their own children and children they want to draw into the cult as future active members.
This ‘manufacture’ requires some level of choice on the part of the victim. The victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) that are speaking out against the cults and the evil in this world today, have all chosen as children (in one way or another) to reject evil and its promises of power. These survivors invariably suffer from what you know as Multiple Personality Disorder.
Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) was unfortunately named for many reasons; one of which was that the name seemed to imply a link to the other ‘personality disorders’ that I mentioned. They are very different. MPD is now called Dissociative Identity Dissorder (DID) and there are calls to change its name yet again.
DID is evident in the lives of SRA survivors who rejected evil and is a massive problem for them in their lives. It is a problem because they have a functioning core personality. They have humanity and therefore have a conscience, are able to self-reflect, and see there are massive problems in their lives and they tend to blame themselves for it all.
The ‘manufactured’ personality disordered people may have DID but it is not a problem for them because they have sublimated, buried, their core personality and cannot self-reflect nor see fault in themselves. They and their condition do cause lots of problems for the people in their lives, though, and should be avoided because they are functionally no different to the hereditary personality disorders such as narcissism.
There is another personality disorder that you might come across, Borderline Personality Disorder. This looks to me a lot like the old Histrionic Personality Disorder with the difference that it is treatable in many cases. Many female psychopaths (et al), though, have been misdiagnosed as Borderline (75% of whom are female).
I completely understand your wanting to get to the bottom of your “wife’s” condition and your research and reflection has a purpose. That purpose, assuming you have PTSD, is to understand it all so that you are protected in the future from your “wife” and from other people who behave the same. Because this is one of the main purposes of PTSD, knowledge of what happened and why will lessen your PTSD responses.
But there will come a time when you have understood down to the marrow of your bones that you cannot deal in any way with your ‘ex’ (or even ruminate on her behaviour) without causing further harm to yourself. At that point, you have to let it go and simply adopt Jesus’ advice that, “You shall know them by their fruits”.
We can understand the “Why” but only up to a point. Past that point, the ‘why’ will not help you (evil itself is non-understandable as it is non-rational and insane) and you cannot help your abuser.
What is important to know, in the end, is that their behaviour is toxic, that they cannot change and, no, you will not make sense of it past a working level. Like gravity, you don’t need to understand the science of it to avoid jumping off a tall building. You just need to know its immutable effects and plan your life accordingly.
James commented (23RD FEBRUARY 2020 – 7:24 PM):